11 Common Dream Symbols & Their Meanings

There are dreams that our conscious minds never register. There are dreams that seem clear when we first wake up but are forgotten as the day goes on. And then there are dreams so strange and jumbled that they stick with us for days and even years at a time. These are the ones full of objects and odd occurrences that practically demand interpretation (or an appointment with a therapist). Dream dictionaries claim to unlock the meaning behind our sleep sagas. But, based on the sheer multitude of entries, it’s clear that everything we dream about is ripe for symbolism. And often, our dreams allude to emotions or situations we need to confront in our waking hours.
Babies in dreams are symbols of purity, rebirth, and vulnerability. Again, it’s important to recognize what’s happening with the baby to figure out how it relates to your life. A crying or abandoned baby could mean that you’re not paying enough attention to your own needs. Perhaps you feel especially needy and vulnerable right now, or you might have doubts about being able to take care of someone other than yourself.
Who hasn’t had dreams about working? Dreams about your job suggest that certain work habits need fixing–either not being on-task enough or working too much. When worries about job performance leak into our subconscious, there’s a lack of balance somewhere, either in effectiveness or in leisure time.

Creepy-crawlies are the manifestation of problems that we’re not facing. Bugs on your skin mean an unsettling change is taking place in your life. The more bugs you encounter in your dream, the greater your problems and unconscious anxieties.
If the candle is aflame, that might mean good luck’s coming your way, or at least that there’s a reason to be hopeful. If it’s not lit, the candle could represent a lack of initiative or not living up to one’s promise. A candle that’s blown out has to do with leaving something behind, which could be good or bad.
This makes for a sad dream, but death isn’t as ominous a theme as you’d think–it’s more about change on the horizon. If someone you know dies in a dream you have, think about your connection to that person. Is there an aspect of your relationship that needs changing? Or is there something about the person’s life that you’d like to see manifesting itself in your own? Death-related dreams might also be about incoming change or the dreamer’s need to change.

Mirrors in dreams reflect our inner qualities–both how others perceive us and how we see ourselves. If the mirror is foggy or clouded, however, that means we’re not seeing things accurately and need to figure out why. Shattering a mirror is allegedly bad luck in real life, but in the dream world, it represents breaking away from the inner self.

Would you guess the people we encounter in dreams are variations on ourselves? Pay close attention to these figures, because they represent personality traits we don’t acknowledge, either because they’re hidden or because they’re negative. When the person’s a stranger, it usually means the former; when he or she is familiar, it tends to signify the latter, although it could also mean that you should take a closer look at the ways in which you interact with that person in real life, and perhaps change your behavior toward him or her.
Hair in our sleep life has multiple meanings, including sensuality, self-image, and strength. If you’re cutting your hair, that symbolizes taking power over your life and letting go of unnecessary burdens. Brushing or fixing your hair alludes to heightened self-consciousness. Hair falling out has to do with fear of getting old and/or physical weakness.
If you’re crying in a dream, you’re likely grappling with a pent-up emotion that you’re not letting go of in real life, and it’s a way for your subconscious to provide you with the emotional outlet you deny yourself otherwise. If someone else is crying in your dream, it could be a message to you to be mindful of the thoughts and feelings of those around you.
Traveling down a road during a dream is like traveling down the path to your goals in life. Sometimes it’s windy or full of potholes, which means you have hardships to overcome. If it’s smooth, you’re making good choices and feel confident about your future success. And if the road ahead looks dark and looming, it might indicate that you’re making choices along the way without all the information you need, which could produce difficult outcomes.

Whether it’s a rushing river or a calm ocean, water represents our emotional state. Calm, clear water means that we’re generally content and peaceful at the moment. Murky, rough water suggests we’re feeling overwhelmed by negative thoughts and not making choices that support our emotional well-being.